Mirrorless cameras have been around for a little while now, but are increasingly popular among new and veteran photographers. The reason for that is they lack the mirror and viewfinder prism synonymous with SLR and DSLR cameras. Instead, mirrorless cameras use a direct feed from the image sensor to a small screen in the viewfinder, similar to how live view works on the rear LCD screen. Because of this reduction in hardware manufacturers are able to reduce the size of the camera bodies making them lighter and more compact.
This doesn’t impact image quality though, as the same excellent electronics are still inside. In fact, as DSLR lines are gradually phased out in favor of newer mirrorless models, we’re seeing mirrorless cameras overtake DSLR technology with higher resolution, wider dynamic range, and other specialist technology to make stills and videos brighter, sharper, and with less image noise. However, not all mirrorless cameras are the same. Users still have to choose between Micro Four Thirds, APS-C, and full frame image sensors, the catalog of lenses available for each model, electronic viewfinder detail, and more. Prices range drastically too, from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Mirrorless cameras aren’t the only option for photography and video though and there are certainly some models that are perfect for astrophotography but are left out of this roundup, so be sure to check out our guide to the best cameras for astrophotography as well. And you’ll have much more success with your images if you’re using one of the best lenses for astrophotography, too. But in the meantime, check out our roundup of the best mirrorless cameras below.
Best for professional level hybrid shooters
The Canon EOS R5 suits more advanced and professional users that require the very highest image quality across both stills and video capture. The R5 captures 45MP stills that can easily be cropped into and video footage that shoots uncropped 8K RAW at 30fps. It’s great in low light thanks to the -6EV autofocusing detection range which practically sees in the dark, and there’s low image noise across the ISO sensitivity range thanks to the custom-designed DIGIC X image processor.
The R5 also comes with better dynamic range thanks to the improved Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO) and Highlight Tone Priority + technology which makes it easier for those newer to image processing to get clearer contrasted images of dark subjects. Also, due to the wider diameter and closer flange range of the RF mount in the EOS R5 it can take advantage of improved optical designs with sharper results and smaller form factor lenses making it more portable.
Thanks to the in body image stabilization (IBIS) technology the R5 is capable of using 5-axis stabilization up to a whopping eight stops, even on lenses without IS. This IBIS also works when shooting video as well, but unfortunately not when capturing 8K RAW footage.
Best for astrophotographers
The R5’s little brother, the Canon EOS R6 should feature a drop in image quality and price to boot, but actually despite the significant drop in image resolution (20.1MP compared with the R5’s 45MP) and less detailed electronic viewfinder, it performs better where it counts in terms of astrophotography.
It can autofocus down to -6.5EV which is 0.5EV lower than the R5. Its maximum ISO sensitivity is double that of the R5 making it more suited to shooting video of the aurora and other moving night sky subjects. It’s also smaller, lighter, and cheaper than the R5 and the lower photosite count (pixels) actually means it should be less prone to image noise.
Best for general shooting
The key to the A7III’s uniqueness lies in its Exmor R image processor which is back illuminated for improved light collection efficiency. This, plus Detail Reproduction and Area-specific Noise Reduction technologies help to maintain clear, noise-free shots even at high ISO values — ideal for astro where ISOs are naturally cranked up high.
The camera has a 15 stop dynamic range so that bright highlights and deep shadows can be rendered equally capably across the frame. A maximum ISO of 51200 (or 204800 for stills) and the integrated Hybrid-Log Gamma picture profile makes the camera ideal for night sky shooting for HDR video processing.
Best for intermediate shooters
Though an APS-C camera, the X-T4 hits hard with its specs such as uncropped 4K video at 30fps, 26.1MP stills capture, and a nicely detailed electronic viewfinder for easier composition. It’s also lightweight and extremely affordable, considering the specs. Which makes this the ideal camera for those that want lots of features in a small form factor but without the price tag.
A stunning -7EV autofocus range makes it absolutely sublime when autofocusing in the dark, but it should be noted that as with all camera AF range specs, this is dependent on the lens attached (in this case the XF50mm f/1.0).
Best small-sized camera
A Micro Four Thirds image sensor means there’s less space for light capture, but for a camera you could quite literally fit into your pocket Olympus have packed a lot in.
20.4MP stills compete with full frame mirrorless cameras in terms of image resolution and it can even shoot 4K UHD 30p video. Though the ISO range (200-6400) is more limited than other cameras in this roundup, most of the time astro shooters will want to keep ISO as low as possible to avoid image noise so 6400 (or 25600 expanded) is more than ample. The vari-angle touch screen makes it easy to compose shots aimed straight up at the sky, whatever the angle and weatherproofing means it’ll keep shooting whether it’s raining or snowing.
Best for a detailed EVF view
If your name was Frodo and you were looking for one camera to rule them all, this might be it. A massive 50.1MP stills resolution matched by 8K 30p video, a class-leading electronic viewfinder and in body image stabilization of 5.5 stops means you’ll capture every single star without problem.
15 stops of dynamic range mean those pinpoints of bright, starry light are captured just as easily as the darkest patches of clear skies and an expandable ISO range up to 102400 allows for some stunning astro photographs. Incredible specs and ideal for astro work, but its price is astronomical, too.
Best for high resolution imaging
If it’s unparalleled detail you need to capture then pay attention to this record-breaking mirrorless. The image sensor in the A7R IV is capable of capturing 61MP stills images which at the time of writing is the highest resolution stills in a full frame camera. Strangely, this doesn’t transfer to video with it limited to 4K UHD 30p maximum footage capture, but that’s still good enough for many shooters.
Definitely aimed at professionals, the A7R IV certainly isn’t cheap. Sadly the ISO range tops out at 32000, or 102400 expanded, which makes other options from this list more appealing especially when considering image noise and dynamic range. That said, you won’t get a bigger or more detailed image of the galaxies than with this camera, if resolution is what you’re after.
Best mid-price all-rounder
The Nikon Z7 II kicked things up a notch from the Z7 with better image processing and more advanced compatibility. Though a little older than other cameras in this list, it still does an excellent job at providing excellently sharp 45MP stills and high quality, smooth video at 4K UHD 60p.
Shooting for longer periods is improved thanks to the more efficient energy consumption and its sturdy magnesium alloy body and full weather sealing means it can be thrown around in all kinds of weather and still shoot wonders. Paired with the razor sharp Z series lenses it’s priced mainly at serious and professional shooters.
Best entry-level full frame option
Full frame cameras are notoriously expensive and perceived as the reserve of advanced and professional photographers, which is why beginners and those still learning the ropes of photography tend to opt for APS-C crop sensors. However, the Nikon Z5 is probably the world’s most accessible full frame mirrorless camera due to its price point.
However, this comes with the caveat that the features aren’t class-leading. Cropped 4K video is a little old now for full frame cameras, the viewfinder matches the resolution of the Z7 II but is out-performed by many competitors. And although the stills top-out at 24.3MP this can be a good thing for low light shooting as lower resolution full frame sensors tend to produce less image noise.
Best budget option for stills and video
While other cameras at this level have only tilting rear screens the Lumix S5 has a vari-angle touch screen which favors newcomers to photography and vloggers equally as this helps with composition at awkward angles. It has a huge expandable ISO sensitivity range all the way up to 204800 and thanks to the full frame 35mm image sensor image noise is still kept to a minimum.
Due to its small size some lenses can feel a little too large and imbalanced in the hand, but this isn’t really an issue for tripod shoots. It has one SD UHS-II card slot and one SD UHS-I slot, which is frustrating but only for professional users.
Best budget astro camera
The Z6 is one of two of Nikon’s earliest attempts at mirrorless cameras and boy did they get it right with this one. It’s the lower resolution version of its Z7 big brother but reaps the rewards in terms of image noise, especially when shooting at its high ISO sensitivities.
Though cropped, the 4K UHD 30p video was great for its release date and is still very useful today. Paired with a compact body, fine detail and refresh rate in the autofocus is sharp and fast.
Even though this top 11 list of mirrorless cameras offers something for everyone there are still a few key aspects to consider before purchasing a camera. Consider whether stills photography will be the focus or if video will be the primary use as some models favor one discipline over the other. However, if the answer is that both are equally important, look to get a model that produces good, high resolution stills and movie footage, preferably uncropped video too for maximum flexibility.
A huge part of buying into a mirrorless system is how many lenses are available for the camera. A good range of wide-angles, zooms, primes, telephotos, macros, and other specialist lenses provides ample opportunity to maximize the camera’s potential and keep the interest of those who like to dabble in lots of disciplines. For example, for users that like to shoot wildlife, but also landscapes, astrophotography, sports, portraits, and macro subjects might want to consider a mirrorless camera with a wider selection of lenses to complement.
Price is one of the most decisive factors when choosing a camera to buy. Older models will generally cost less but also lack modern features such as improved image stabilization or more detailed electronic viewfinders. However, newer models aimed at professionals may contain features that outpace beginner or intermediate photographers. That’s why it can help to balance budget and features against what you’ll actually be using the camera for.
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